Expedition Africa Series Premiere on History
by Laura Tucker
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I’ve always been a fan of Mark Burnett’s storytelling abilities. The man doesn’t even have to open his mouth and can effectively spin a fascinating tale just with his editing prowess on Survivor. Once I heard about his newest project, Expedition Africa, I figured I was in for more of the same.
A group of explorers set out to retrace the steps of Henry Morton Stanley as he searched for Dr. David Livingstone in Africa in 1871. They set out to have similar provisions, and at times go off his known route, but only to avoid what are now well-populated areas or to make it even more difficult.
The journalist on this current excursion, seemingly taking Stanley’s place, is Kevin Sites. He is normally a solo journalist, and has spent years covering wars and disasters, keeping himself within danger. He can build the story and all and is great in the wild, but the problem is he’s used to doing it alone and his own way.
Along with Sites is Pasquale Scaturro, a navigator and explorer who has led expeditions to Everest, as well as Africa. He’s also used to doing it his way. Mireya Mayor is a wildlife expert and former NFL cheerleader, but she’s no shrinking violet. She’s credited with discovering a new species of mouse lemur. Benedict Allen is a survivalist who once ate his own dog just to survive and has also stitched up his own wound with a boot-mending kit. Traveling with them are a couple of local warriors to fend off possible attacks, and some porters to help them carry the load.
In the first episode, before they’ve even hit the trail, an argument already breaks out. Kevin doesn’t see the need to take fresh water, as it’s heavy and a burden. When Pasquale insists, Kevin asks if he’s going to carry it on his back. It’s explained to Kevin that the majority of the rivers around there are saltwater and undrinkable. Yet, they’re three hours past when they were supposed to leave, so he insists they leave before the issue is resolved. Of course, he finds out very soon that that was not a bright idea.
All of these explorers are either used to leading or doing it alone, so that first argument isn’t their last. In that respect the show began to remind me a lot of Survivor, watching how the people relate to each other and form alliances. Where it differed was that these explorers had more food readily available to them, except for when they had no fire to cook over. Expedition Africa also seemed to have a real sense of danger, where with Survivor, we sense that it isn’t really that dangerous. However, they both had gross food, as Mireya is asked to eat a goat kidney … just after she watched it cut out of the animal and then get peeled.
I found myself being pulled into this story much the same way I am as Burnett’s others. I want to hear more, so you can bet I’ll be tuning in every Sunday night to watch this. I have to know how ti turns out, if they make it in their given timeframe of thirty days, and mostly if someone utters that infamous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Expedition Africa premiers on the History Channel on May 31st at 10 ET/9 CT.
Laura Tucker is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints and Reality Shack, and operates a TV blog, What’s Hot On TV. She is also an Associate Instructor and 1st dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts.
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